Is it really possible that we are just three and a half short months away from the start of the 2015 NFL regular season? Who am I kidding anyway? These 100 or so days leading up to the real season always seem to last an eternity. And although preseason does offer us an occasional storyline we can get really excited about, at the end of the day it’s nothing but a tremendous tease to the main course of meaningful regular season games. One month-long, painstaking production of mostly unwatchable football and players who will, for the most part, drift into anonymity and come to the realization that the dream is over.
With Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy taking on a more holistic approach to his job duties this season, however, the preseason games offer more intrigue and will give Packers fans a glimpse of the new direction this team will be taken in. Because make no mistake about it, this is a big change.
No longer will McCarthy be an offensive coordinator. For the first time in his career of calling plays, he will hand the reins over to a guy who has almost never called plays in the pros, Tom Clements. And when Clements did call plays briefly in Buffalo years ago, he was relieved of those duties rather quickly.
It will be very interesting to see how closely involved or if McCarthy will be able to remove himself enough from the offensive game plan and play calling to the point where Clements is actually running the offense. But let’s face it. From this point forward we’re all hoping it’s No. 12 who’s REALLY running the show.
Will Mike McCarthy really be able to sit back and enjoy the game more as a spectator and interject his voice over everything that happens rather than working with the offense all game? Are we going to see Big Mike on the sideline actually coaching guys up and motivating people?
It will now be Mike McCarthy’s job to make sure the team is focusing on the most important things during the game. Really, it has always been his responsibility to do that, but a track record of success afforded him the luxury of a blind eye, and only a perfect storm in Seattle brought the revelation to the forefront and forced major changes within the Packers organization.
Here are the top five things Mike McCarthy should be emphasizing this year.
1. Go For the Jugular
Too often this saying gets saved for when an opponent is on the ropes. Personally, I think it is a mindset a team should adopt for every minute of every football game. Go for the jugular. For 60 full minutes and more, if it’s necessary. Don’t wait to start going for the jugular. Strive for it with every play from the first one to the last.
If this Packers team plays with this mindset on both offense and defense this season, then Aaron Rodgers is going to get plenty of rest in the fourth quarter.
Until you’re pulled from the game because you’re up six touchdowns… GO FOR THE JUGULAR!
2. Change It Up Every Week
Richard Sherman’s big mouth is typically an asset for him, but he screwed up last year when he said a little too much in a relaxed interview. Sherman stated there were only a few teams in the league that actually change up their third down plays on a week-to-week basis. The Packers were not one of those teams.
Even though this article came out in time for the Packers to see it and make adjustments or additions to their third down play calls, based on the fact that Green Bay went 3 for 14 in the NFC Championship game against Seattle, it’s safe to say they missed it or ignored it. This is simply unacceptable and the Packers need to alter their strategy accordingly. The Packers must add new third down plays every week and continually keep defenses guessing.
3. Ferocity, Tenacity, and Controlled Anger
The Packers were more ferocious and tenacious than usual last year, but sometimes they bordered on the chippy and occasionally did things that were not representative of a smart football team.
The erudite football scholar who is aware of the big picture and the goals of the team must always remain present as the warrior is physically immersed in battle. The Packers have to find a way to play on that edge all the time… as physical and wild as is humanly possible, while still being able to, for lack of a better term, know right from wrong.
We saw Mike Daniels run a guy down to get in his face when the Packers defense wasn’t even on the field. We saw T.J. Lang take a 15-yarder for unnecessarily hitting a guy after the whistle. We saw numerous pushing matches after the play was over, too. Although I feel these things will happen when you take a more physical and aggressive mindset, the Packers have to be more aware and eliminate them as much as possible.
This team is the Green Bay Packers, not the Oakland Raiders. You can still be incredibly tough and physical and not take dumb penalties. Simply put, the Packers need to play with controlled anger in addition to their ferocity and tenacity and I expect they will address this issue.
4. Do. Your. Job.
Okay, so the Patriots say this all the time and even trademarked it, but after the Brandon Bostick debacle last year, I don’t think you can remind guys of this point enough.
Each player on the team, just like an Army platoon, has a job and responsibility on the field for every situation. It is when each person in the unit focuses on and performs only his job that the ultimate cohesion will take place. Of course, that requires the ultimate trust in the man on either side of you to know that he too will do his job, but with the Packers returning pretty much the entire roster from last year, that trust factor should be off the charts.
If every man on the team does the job he’s asked to do (cough, cough, Clay Matthews, cough, cough), then this team has an opportunity to be very special.
5. Finish the Fight
Not all games are going to be successful in achieving the death blow and going for the jugular. When that happens and it’s obvious that you’re in a real battle, that’s when the mantra changes and becomes “Finish the Fight.”
This is something the Packers have NEVER been good at under Mike McCarthy. The Packers often get out to big leads, but often times allow their opponents to crawl back into games. Unless you’re the Chicago Bears, if the Packers have a three-score lead on you late in the first half, it’s almost a given that Green Bay will put themselves in position to lose before the final gun sounds.
As Howard, one of my favorite people in the comments section of these pages, often likes to say: FINISH STRONG! This is something the Packers haven’t done and need to make a priority.